US midterm elections: Democrats take control of House of Representatives, Republican retains Senate


US midterm elections: Democrats take control of House of Representatives, Republican retains Senate

Washington: The opposition Democratic Party is projected to regain control of the House of Representatives while the ruling Republican Party is all set to retain its majority in the Senate in the critical midterm elections held on Tuesday, according to projections made by major US media outlets. Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, 78, is expected to be re-elected as Speaker of 435-member House of Representatives, which is equivalent to Lok Sabha in Indian parliament.

In the outgoing House, the Republicans had 235 seats while the Democrats 193. The new House would come into being next January. However, the ruling Republican Party led by President Donald Trump appeared to be all set to retain majority in the 100-member Senate where it currently has a razor-thin majority of 51-49 seats. The GOP is expected to increase its tally, as counting of votes were still going on when reports last came in.

In his first tweet after election results started coming in Trump claimed success. “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!”. Trump in campaign rallies had said that he was on the ballot and made it a referendum on his nearly two years rule.


Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump
 Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!

9:44 AM - Nov 7, 2018
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The US President who headlined an unprecedented 50 rallies – 30 in the last two months alone – and has campaigned for dozens of candidates at all levels of government, according to White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, watched the results come in with friends and family in the White House residence.

“The President has energized a staggering number of Americans at packed arenas and in overflow crowds at rallies across the country,” Sanders said.

“Under Trump’s leadership, the Republican National Committee has raised more than a quarter billion dollars, fuelling an extraordinary ground game geared toward defying midterm history and protecting the GOP’s majorities,” she said.

In her victory speech in Washington DC, Pelosi said: “Tomorrow will be a new day in America”.

The former House speaker said that the election result is about “restoring the system of checks and balances” in Trump administration thus indicating that the new Democratic party would play the role of a strong opponent in for the US President. In victory, The Washington Post said Democrats regained some of the confidence – although less of the power – they lost in 2016 when Trump won a surprise victory over Hillary Clinton.

“In this election, they sought to energise groups that Clinton did not: young voters, Latinos, African Americans and infrequent voters,” the daily said.

According to The New York Times, amid signs that the nation’s deep political and cultural divisions that lifted Trump in 2016 may only be deepening, “rural voters were breaking sharply” with their counterparts in the suburban districts and metropolitan areas, as turnout soared in a midterm election that came to serve as a national referendum on the president.

The Democrats also won some of the high-profile governor’s race including Kansas, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. The GOP retained its governorship in Florida. The elections also resulted in Rashida Tlaib becoming the first Muslim woman elected to the House of Representatives along with Somali-American Ilhan Omar.




Taliban target border troops, killing 20 in Afghanistan


Taliban target border troops, killing 20 in Afghanistan

Kabul: Afghan officials say at least 20 Afghan border troops have been killed in a Taliban attack on their base in western Farah province. Abdul Samad Salehi, a provincial council member, says more than 45 border forces were at the base in Posht Koh district; only three of them could reach a nearby village, rest of them are either killed or arrested by the Taliban.

At least 20 soldiers were killed and similar number were missing, most probably arrested by Taliban, said a senior army official said, who was not authorised to speak with the media. The late Monday night gun battle lasted for more than two hours before insurgents overran the base and communications were lost, said the official. Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, claimed responsibility for the attack.

PTI.




Bill Gates backs China’s toilet revolution


Bill Gates backs China’s toilet revolution

Beijing: As one of the world’s richest men and most active philanthropists, Bill Gates usually has his hands full. Just not with poop. So it came as a surprise when the founder of Microsoft brandished a jar of human waste at a forum on the future of the toilet in Beijing on Tuesday.

The stunt was an effort to draw attention to a problem affecting developing countries around the world: not enough toilets. “In places without sanitation you have got way more than that,” Gates said, pointing to the feces inside the clear canister resting on a table.

“And that’s what kids when they are out playing, they are being exposed to all the time, and that’s why we connect this not just with quality of life, but with disease and death and with malnutrition,” he told attendees.

 

Bill Gates

@BillGates
 There are few things I love talking about more than toilets.

6:31 PM - Nov 5, 2018
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The billionaire has used part of his considerable fortune to provide clean, comfortable sanitation facilities to the nearly half of the world’s population that suffers without. “When you think of things that are basic right up there with health and enough to eat, you think that having a reasonable toilet certainly belongs on that list,” Gates said.

Gates has previously used shock tactics to draw attention to his disease-battling efforts. In 2009, he loosed mosquitoes at a Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED) Conference in California to make a point about the deadly sting of malaria – waiting a minute or so before assuring the audience the liberated insects were disease-free.

Gates was in Beijing on Tuesday for the “Reinvented Toilet Expo”, a forum hosted by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation showcasing various cutting edge toilet technology in lieu of sewers, making them easier and cheaper to install the devices. The world’s number two economy is in the midst of a drive to improve its notoriously malodorous bathrooms, a campaign President Xi Jinping has dubbed the “toilet revolution.”

“China has made great progress in improving health and sanitation for millions of people,” Gates said. “China has an opportunity to launch a new category of innovated non-sewered sanitation solutions that will benefit millions of people worldwide.”




Afghanistan: 12 newborn babies die after mystery outbreak hits maternity hospital


Afghanistan: 12 newborn babies die after mystery outbreak hits maternity hospital

Twelve newborn babies have died at a health centre in Northeastern Afghanistan due to an outbreak, which is yet to be analysed and examined. The health centre is a maternity hospital situated at Panjshir Province’s Anabah district, and run by an Italian NGO (nongovernment organisation).

Radio Free Afghanistan quoted the NGO as saying that all the babies died on November 4 due to an ‘unknown and undetermined’ outbreak. A statement from the NGO informed that the newborns, who were in critical condition and on antibiotic therapy, passed away at the hospital’s neonatal intensive-care unit due to apparent sepsis — a serious complication of an infection.

The NGO also said that they immediately informed about the incident and the outbreak to Afghan health authorities and tasked a private laboratory of Kabul to carry out microbiological tests. All the 12 babies experienced same symptoms. The hospital has taken necessary steps following the outbreak and successfully treated all the patients affected by it. The neonatal ward has been shut down following the incident. The NGO also informed that the medical coordinator of the maternity ward of the hospital is in constant contact with the provincial and district officials over the matter.




New Zealand: Fisherman saves toddler from drowning in miraculous rescue


New Zealand: Fisherman saves toddler from drowning in miraculous rescue

Wellington: A New Zealand fisherman has plucked a toddler from the ocean in a “miraculous” rescue after thinking he was watching a doll float past.

Gus Hutt was at the beach checking his fishing lines at about 7:15 a.m. on Oct. 26 when he spotted the 18-month-old boy. He told the Whakatane Beacon newspaper that the face looked like porcelain and he thought it was a doll until he heard a squeak and realised with shock that the toddler was still alive.

The boy had escaped from his parent’s tent after the family had camped at Matata Beach on the North Island. Murphy’s Holiday Camp co-owner Rebecca Salter told The Associated Press that the rescue was “miraculous and fateful” after Hutt had decided to fish at a different spot than usual.




Facebook blocks 30 accounts ahead of US midterm elections


Facebook blocks 30 accounts ahead of US midterm elections

San Francisco: Facebook said Monday it had blocked some 30 accounts on its platform and 85 accounts on photo-sharing network Instagram over concerns they may be linked to foreign entities and aimed at interfering in US midterm elections.

“On Sunday evening, US law enforcement contacted us about online activity that they recently discovered and which they believe may be linked to foreign entities,” Facebook said in a blog post. “Our very early-stage investigation has so far identified around 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that may be engaged in coordinated inauthentic behaviour. “We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail.”




United States: Midterm elections to start from today


United States: Midterm elections to start from today

Washington DC: Thousands of people in the United States will exercise their franchise in the midterm elections on Tuesday, which is seen as a litmus test for Donald Trump’s near two-year-old presidency so far. Voting will be held in all 435 seats of the House of Representatives, 35 Senate seats and 39 governorships. The midterm polls are held every four years. They are generally held in the halfway stage of the US President’s four-year term, Al Jazeera reported.

Polling will open in Vermont at 5 am (local time). Several other states on the East Coast will begin voting between 6 am (local time) and 7 am (local time). Polling places will remain open for 12 hours. In the House of Representatives, members serve two-year terms. The Senate has 100 seats and each member serves a six-year term. However, only 35 seats are up for grabs. The midterm polls are considered as a referendum on Trump’s divisive policies that has taken the world by storm.

Trump’s Republican Party currently holds 235 seats in the House of Representatives, while the Democratic Party has 193 seats. The Democrats need to win 23 seats to control the House. In the Senate, the Republicans hold a slim majority — 51:49, as per the report.

Traditionally, the ruling party of the US President loses seats in the midterm polls, while the opposition parties gain hold of seats. Various opinion polls have suggested the Republicans holding on to the Senate and the Democrats’ chance to snatch a majority in the House of Representatives.

Both Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama have crisscrossed the country for massive rallies, with both the leaders indulging themselves in political mudslinging. This year’s midterm elections are centred on immigration, jobs and healthcare facilities.

While the Democrats blame Trump for his trade conflicts with other countries, which has impacted jobs in the country, the Republicans are pinpointing the Democrats for its hand behind the migrant caravan that is heading for the US from Central America.




Google workers across the world walk out over treatment of women amid sexual misconduct claims


Google workers across the world walk out over treatment of women amid sexual misconduct claims

London/New Delhi: Hundreds of employees at Google offices around the world, including in India, Thursday staged an unprecedented series of walkouts in protest at the company’s treatment of women and lenient treatment of senior executives accused of sexual misconduct.

The demonstrations, dubbed “Google Walkout,” follow an outcry over a New York Times investigation that detailed years of sexual harassment allegations, multimillion-dollar severance packages for accused executives, and a lack of transparency over the cases. The employees are demanding several key changes in how sexual misconduct allegations are dealt with at the technology giant, including a call to end forced arbitration – a move which would make it possible for victims to sue. Forced arbitration, a common contract clause for Silicon Valley employees, demands any disputes are dealt with internally rather than through other methods such as the courts.

Unequal pay and a lack of gender representation were also said to be among employees’ concerns as they staged the action. Google chief executive Sundar Pichai has told staff he supports their right to protest. “Yesterday, we let Googlers know that we are aware of the activities planned for Thursday and that employees will have the support they need if they wish to participate,” the Indian-American top executive said. Demonstrations at the company’s offices around the world began at 11:10am in Tokyo and took place at the same time in other time zones. A photo from the Singapore hub showed at least 100 staff protesting.

When contacted a Google spokesperson confirmed to PTI that 150 employees participated in the walkout in India. The employees were from Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Mumbai offices. Overall, Google has about 2,000 people across four offices in India (Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Mumbai and Bangalore). A Google spokesman in Singapore said he could not provide details on how many people took part in the walkouts at those two offices, which each have more than 1,000 employees.

In Europe, a small group of Google employees walk out at the company’s London headquarters. A larger protest was reported in Zurich, Switzerland. Hoi Lam, a staff developer advocate at one of Google’s London offices, posted a photo on Twitter of workers gathered together. He wrote: “The stories shared at Google London Walkout are heartbreaking.” In the United States, there are hundreds of posts on social media using the hashtag #googlewalkout. Google’s management has been struggling to deal with the backlash from The New York Times investigation.

Top executives have assured employees that the company is “dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace” in an e-mail sent shortly after the Times investigation was published last week. At least 48 other employees have been sacked for sexual harassment without receiving a payout, Pichai has informed Google staff. He admitted the New York Times’ report had been “difficult to read”. “Employees have raised constructive ideas for how we can improve our policies and our processes going forward,” said  Pichai in his latest statement.

“We are taking in all their feedback so we can turn these ideas into action,” the Google CEO said. In a press release, organisers of the global walkout said: “As Google workers, we were disgusted by the details of the recent New York Times article, which provided the latest example of a culture of complicity, dismissiveness, and support for perpetrators in the face of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse of power. According to the Times report, the company stayed silent about sexual misconduct allegations against three executives over the past decade, including Android creator Andy Rubin, who exited the company in 2014.

Tech news site The Information previously reported that Google had investigated Rubin for an inappropriate relationship while at the company. But the Times uncovered new details, including a reported USD 90 million exit package that Rubin is said to have been granted when he departed the company. He was allowed to go despite what Google considered a “credible” allegation of sexual misconduct made against him, according to the report. Sam Singer, a lawyer for Rubin, disputed the allegations in the Times report.

“None of the allegations made about Mr. Rubin are true,” he said in a statement, calling them “demonstrably false.” Earlier this week, Richard DeVaul, a director of Google X, resigned from his position. The Times report claimed he had sexually harassed a job applicant. DeVaul is leaving without any exit package, CNN reported, quoting a person familiar with the matter as saying. In a statement to the Times, DeVaul said he was sorry for the “error of judgement.” They employees are also making formal demands to Google’s management, including a commitment to end pay and opportunity inequality, a clear, uniform, globally inclusive process for reporting sexual misconduct safely and anonymously, the appointment of an employee representative to the board and an end to forced arbitration in cases of harassment and discrimination for all current and future employees.




MeToo: Another executive out amid sexual harassment tension at Google


MeToo: Another executive out amid sexual harassment tension at Google

San Francisco: Google parent Alphabet on Wednesday confirmed that an executive accused of sexual harassment left the company without an exit package as tension over its handling of such matters heightened. Word that Rich DeVaul, a director at X lab devoted to “moonshots” such as internet service from balloons, was out came with reports that women employees were trying to organize a walk-out on Thursday to protest lenient handling of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

Alphabet declined to share any details about DeVaul’s departure from the company on Tuesday. Google chief executive Sundar Pichai sent a message to employees late Tuesday, a copy of which was posted online by technology news website Ars Technica. Pichai said he has heard from many employees on the subject of inappropriate behaviour at work and was “deeply sorry for the past actions and the pain they have caused employees.”

“As CEO, it’s been personally important to me that we take a much harder line on inappropriate behavior,” Pichai said in the message. He said anew that Google had fired 48 employees in the past two years — including 13 senior executives — as a result of sexual harassment allegations. Pichai has met with Google employees about the issue since The New York Times reported last week that a senior Google employee, Android creator Andy Rubin, received an exit package worth USD 90 million as he faced allegations of misconduct, and that Google had covered up other claims of sexual harassment.

Sam Singer, a spokesman for Rubin, rejected the allegations against him in a statement to AFP, saying Rubin left Google of his own accord to launch venture capital firm and technology incubator Playground. Asked by AFP and other media for its reaction, Google released an email sent to employees from Pichai stating that none of the people who resigned or were terminated due to sexual harassment concerns in the past two years received “an exit package.”

“We are dead serious about making sure we provide a safe and inclusive workplace,” Pichai said in the email shared last week. “We want to assure you that we review every single complaint about sexual harassment or inappropriate conduct, we investigate and we take action.” Concerns being expressed by women at Alphabet have added to the growing chorus of voices denouncing the existence of a sexist culture in male-dominated Silicon Valley, which has knocked a number of internet industry executives at other tech giants from their perches. Accusations concerning the lack of women in tech jobs and unfair or crude treatment endured by some in the industry have simmered for years, occasionally boiling over.




Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled to death, body cut into pieces after murder: Turkish prosector


Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled to death, body cut into pieces after murder: Turkish prosector

Istanbul: Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and his body was dismembered and destroyed as part of a premeditated plan, Turkey’s chief prosecutor said Wednesday, making details of the murder public for the first time.

The revelations came only an hour after Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor left Istanbul, and his Turkish counterpart said he was “obliged” to release the information after their talks produced “no concrete results”. Gruesome reports in the Turkish media had previously alleged that Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Washington Post contributor who had criticised the powerful Saudi crown prince, was killed and cut into pieces by a team sent from Riyadh to silence him. His body has not been found. “In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was strangled to death immediately after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 for marriage formalities,” said a statement from the office of Istanbul chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan.

“The victim’s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation — again, in line with advance plans,” it added. Saudi Arabia sent the head of its investigation to Istanbul this week, seeking to draw a line under a crisis that has brought near unprecedented scrutiny on the oil-rich Gulf nation. Attorney General Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb arrived in Istanbul on Sunday, met with Fidan twice, visited the consulate and spoke with Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency. He then flew out of Istanbul on Wednesday afternoon without making a public statement.

“Despite our well-intentioned efforts to reveal the truth, no concrete results have come out of those meetings,” the Turkish prosecutor’s office said. It added that the Saudi prosector’s office invited Fidan and his delegation to Riyadh “along with the evidence they have obtained”. A senior Turkish official earlier said that Saudi officials seemed “primarily interested in finding out what evidence Turkey had against the perpetrators”. “We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

After initially insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, then saying he died in a brawl during an interview gone wrong, the Saudi regime has admitted he was killed by a “rogue operation” and arrested 18 people. But a spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, Omer Celik, said on Wednesday that the murder could not have been carried out without instructions from “high-level” officials in Riyadh. “Who gave the command?” Celik asked at a press conference, adding he believed it was “out of the question” that Saudi authorities had not learned where the body was.

Erdogan has repeatedly requested the suspects be extradited to Turkey for trial — which Riyadh has refused to do — as well as reveal the location of Khashoggi’s body and who ordered the hit. Abdulkadir Selvi, a well-connected pro-government columnist for Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper, on Wednesday accused the Saudi prosecutor of “working to save the crown prince by covering up the investigation rather than shed light on the murder”. The affair has tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who has positioned himself as a Saudi reformer. He has denounced the murder as “repulsive” and strongly denied any involvement.

The case has also sorely strained relations between the ultra-conservative kingdom and the West. France said Wednesday that “not enough” was being done to find those responsible for the murder of the Saudi journalist, who was an insider in royal circles before going into self-imposed exile in the United States last year. In an editorial published Tuesday, the Washington Post accused the administration of US President Donald Trump of “playing along” and “pretending to believe that the Saudis can conduct a credible probe — even though a chief suspect is the kingdom’s own autocratic ruler”.

The editorial also urged the US Congress to impose sanctions on those responsible. On Wednesday Switzerland said it would halt deliveries of spare weapons parts to Saudi Arabia over the murder. While Trump has called the case “one of the worst cover-ups in history”, he warned against halting a Saudi arms deal, saying it would harm US jobs.

However, relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, long-time allies, have cooled. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday said the murder “violates the norms of international law. That much is very, very clear”. And on Tuesday, Washington called for a ceasefire and peace talks in Yemen, where the US has faced fierce international criticism for supporting a Saudi-led coalition. Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said the US had been watching the conflict, in which nearly 10,000 people have been killed, “for long enough”.




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